Category: Movies

“The Deadly Mantis” (1957) / Z-View

The Deadly Mantis (1957)

Director:  Nathan Juran

Screenplay by:   Martin Berkeley based on a story by William Alland

Starring:  Craig Stevens, William Hopper and Alix Talton

Tagline: The most dangerous monster that ever lived!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

When volcanic eruptions set a gigantic prehistoric preying mantis free, the world becomes his buffet.  It is up to Col. Joe Parkman (Stevens), Dr. Nedrick Jackson (Hopper) and Marge Blaine (Talton) to find a way to stop this giant insect.

Documentary footage of Eskimos and jets taking off make poor filler footage.  The giant praying mantis looks good in scenes where it is busting into a building, but not so good when flying.  This viewing didn’t rate as high as the first time I saw The Deadly Mantis.  Of course I’m no longer eight.  The Deadly Mantis rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Day Shift” Starring Jamie Foxx – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I like the poster and the trailer for Day Shift looks like fun.  Deal me in.

Jamie Foxx stars as a hard working blue collar dad who just wants to provide a good life for his quick-witted daughter, but his mundane San Fernando Valley pool cleaning job is a front for his real source of income, hunting and killing vampires as part of an international Union of vampire hunters. #DayShift #Netflix

RELEASE DATE: August 12th on Netflix

CAST: James Franco, Snoop Dogg, Dave Franco

“The Thing” (82) / Z-View

The Thing (1982)

Director:  John Carpenter

Screenplay by:  Bill Lancaster based on a short story by John W. Campbell Jr.

Starring:  Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur,  T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan,  Peter Maloney, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites and Adrienne Barbeau (uncredited computer voice)

Tagline:  Man is The Warmest Place to Hide.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Members of a US Antarctica research station go on full alert when a Norwegian helicopter begins buzzing their outpost.  One of the Norwegians is shooting at a husky that’s running towards the American station.  The helicopter lands and more shots ring out missing the dog and nearly hitting members of the US team. Garry (Moffat) shoots back, killing the Norwegian.  A fire caused by wild shots leads to the explosion of the helicopter and death of the pilot.

MacReady (Russell) and Dr. Copper (Dysart) fly to the Norwegian base.  Everyone there is dead! MacReady and Copper discover a disfigured burned vaguely human-looking corpse.  MacReady and Copper return to the US base with the corpse and more questions than answers.

The Norwegian dog had been given free reign at the US base.  When MacReady returns the dog is placed in a kennel with the US huskies.  Once the lights are out, the Norwegian dog begins to transform as it kills the US dogs and assimilates them.  The dogs’ screams alert the base and everyone shows up.  They’re shocked, but use a flamethrower to incinerate the thing.

They ultimately learn that the Norwegians discovered an alien ship.  One of the creatures from the ship thawed and began killing them.  It made it’s escape in the form of the Norwegian dog.

Dr. Blair runs computer simulations and realizes odds are that at least one of the US team has been assimilated.  The computer also shows that if one of the things makes it to civilization, humans will be wiped out.

Dr. Cooper suggests a blood test to determine if anyone has been compromised.  Before that can happen, the blood supply is destroyed, as are every means of communication and the transportation.  At least one of the US team is no longer human.  But who?

As they struggle for a solution, the lack of sleep and paranoia makes each person as much of a danger as the thing.  Will anyone survive?  And what of the human race?

Bill Lancaster’s script is closer to John Campbell’s short story than the 1951 film.  Everything comes together.  John Carpenter is the right director for this project — he respects the source material.  He’s supported by a wonderful cast led by Kurt Russell, and each cast member gets their moment to shine.  Stan Winston’s effects were groundbreaking for the time and still impress.  Ennio Morricone provides music that adds to the tension.

When I saw The Thing on it’s original release, the theater was nearly empty.  Over the years, The Thing developed a following and the props it deserves.  My initial rating for The Thing was 4 of 5 stars, but over the years, I’ve bumped it up to a more proper 5 of 5 stars.

“Desperate” (1947) / Z-View

Desperate (1947)

Director:  Anthony Mann

Screenplay by:  Harry EssexMartin Rackin (additional dialogue), Dorothy Atlas (story)

Starring:  Steve Brodie, Audrey Long and Raymond Burr

Tagline:  Desperate was their nightmare of FEAR!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Steve (Brodie) and Anne Randall (Long) are ready to celebrate their wedding anniversary when Steve gets a call from a man named Walt Radak (Burr) about a trucking job.  Since they need the money, they decide to postpone the celebration until Steve gets back.

When Steve arrives at the warehouse, he learns that Radak and his crew are thieves who want him to haul stolen property.  Steve refuses, but is forced at gunpoint back into the truck.  As the crooks load the goods, Steve is able to signal a cop walking by.  A shootout ensues.  The cop is shot and killed as everyone scrambles to get away.  Only Radak’s brother is caught.

Steve returns home, gets his wife and they go on the run.  Steve needs to prove his innocence since the cops think he’s part of the cop killer gang.  Radak blames Steve for the bungled robbery and his brother’s capture.  Steve is on the run and desperate…

Desperate is the first and only feature film to star Steve Brodie (which is surprising).  It is also Raymond Burr’s first time playing the lead heavy.  Desperate is a good film noir and rates 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: L. Q. Jones

L.Q. Jones born Justus Ellis McQueen Jr. died today from natural causes at the age of 94.

After serving in the Navy, LQ went to college, worked as a stand-up comedian, played a little pro-football and pro-basketball and even did some ranching.  A letter from his old college roommate, (actor) Fess Parker, encouraged Mr. Jones to give acting a try.

Jones’ first role was in 1955’s Battle Cry where he was billed under his given name, Justus E. McQueen.  The character he played in Battle Cry was named LQ Jones!  He liked the name so much he took it as his stage name for the rest of his career!  LQ never looked back.  He stayed busy alternating between television and feature films for the rest of his career.

Television highlights include: Cheyenne, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, The Rebel, Death Valley Days, The Rifleman, Lassie, Ben Casey, Have Gun – Will Travel, Route 66, Laramie, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Branded, Rawhide, My Favorite Martian, Hondo, The Big Valley, Hawaii Five-O, The Virginian (semi-regular), The FBI, Gunsmoke, Alias Smith and Jones, Assignment: Vienna, Ironside, Kung Fu, McCloud, CHiPs, Columbo, The Incredible Hulk, Vega$, Charlie’s Angels, The Dukes of Hazard, The Fall Guy, Walker Texas Ranger and Renegade.

Some of the feature films with LQ Jones: Battle Cry, The Naked and the Dead, Cimarron, Flaming Star, Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, Hang ‘Em High, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, White Line Fever, Casino, The Mask of Zorro and Route 666.

I probably first saw LQ Jones when he appeared in multiple episodes of Cheyenne.  Of course Mr. Jones stayed so busy on so many shows that I watched, it may have been one of the others on his resume.  Since I enjoyed his role as Cheyenne Brodie’s friend, we’ll go with that though.  As for his feature films, you could always count on him to have a role in most Sam Peckinpah films.  When LQ Jones’ name is mentioned, White Line Fever is one I think of right after The Wild Bunch.  Whenever LQ showed up, you were in for a treat!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to LQ Jones’ family, friends and fans.

“G-Men” (1935) Starring James Cagney / Z-View

G-Men (1935)

Director:  William Keighley

Screenplay by:  Darryl F. Zanuck, Seton I. Miller (uncredited) based on the novel Public Enemy No. 1 by Gregory Rogers

Starring:  James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak, Robert Armstrong and Lloyd Nolan

Tagline: Hollywood’s Most Famous Bad Man Joins the “G-MEN” and Halts the March of Crime!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Because he won’t play ball with crooks, Brick Davis (Cagney) isn’t making it as a lawyer.  So when Brick’s recruited to join the FBI, he does.  We then follow Brick through training and his efforts to bring down a crime syndicate.

Cagney’s star power is evident in this pretty much by the numbers outing.  With that said,  G-Men rates 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: Tony Sirico

Tony Sirico, who rose to fame playing Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos died this morning.  Mr. Sirico was 79.  Tony Sirico’s brother posted the following on Facebook…

“It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death” Friday morning,  The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement.”

Tony Sirico built a career playing tough guys and mobsters.  He was convincing because Mr. Sirico was a real-life tough guy who knew first hand the view from the backseat of a police cruiser.  Tony Sirico was arrested 28 times and served two prison terms.  It was during his second stint in prison that he decided to give acting a try (after an acting troupe visited the prison).

Tony Sirico appeared in both television and feature films.  Some television shows/movies where you can find Mr. Sirico include: Kojak, Police Squad, Miami Vice, Gotti, Cosby, The Sopranos, Medium, A Muppets Christmas and Family Guy.

Feature films that, uh, feature Tony Sirico include: The Pick-Up Artist, Goodfellas, Romeo is Bleeding, Bullets Over Broadway, Dead Presidents and Cop Land,

Tony Sirico brought a feeling of authenticity to his roles.  One of my favorite Tony Sirico roles was Toy Torillo in Cop Land.  It’s not a huge role, but Mr. Sirico provided the gravitas needed.  Of course if I have to pick just one Tony Sirico role, then of course I’m going with Paulie Walnuts in The Sopranos.  Thankfully, we aren’t limited to just one because Tony Sirico was good in everything.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

RIP: Larry Storch

Larry Storch, actor and comedian, has died.  Mr. Storch was 99.  Below is the Facebook post that appeared on Mr. Storch’s page…

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share with you the news our beloved Larry passed away in his sleep overnight. We are shocked and at a loss for words at the moment. Please remember he loved each and every one of you and wouldn’t want you to cry over his passing. He is reunited with his wife Norma and his beloved F Troop cast and so many friends and family,”

Larry Storch attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx where Don Adams was one of his classmates. (They became life-long friends).  Mr. Storch quit high school before graduating and began working as a comedian.  During World War II, Larry Storch served in the Navy where he was a shipmate with Tony Curtis!

After the war, Larry Storch returned to comedy and his versatility led to work on stage, television, feature films, voice-over work and comedy records!  Mr. Storch’s IMDb resume lists 249 credits!

Some of the television programs that featured Larry Storch include: The Phil Silvers Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, Car 54 Where Are You?, Underdog, Gilligan’s Island, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (regular, voiced Phineas J. Whoopee), F Troop (regular, Cp;. Agorn), I Dream of Jeannie, Garrison’s Gorillas, Get Smart, That Girl, Gomer Pyle, The Batman/Superman Hour (regular, voiced The Joker), The Flying Nun, The Name of the Game, Groovie Goolies (regular), The Doris Day Show, All in the Family, The Brady Kids (regular), Love American Style, Mannix, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Columbo, Police Story, The Love Boat, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider and Married with Children.

Feature films include: Stalag 17 (uncredited, played Sgt. Bagradian), The Great Race, The Great Bank Robbery, Airport 75 and SOB.

I probably first saw Larry Storch in one of his many television appearances before his best known role as Corporal Randolph Agarn on F-Troop.  But THAT is the role I think of when Larry Storch’s name is mentioned.  He was so good that he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series.  When Don Adams won for his role on Get Smart, Mr. Storch reportedly told Don Adams, “You kept it on the block.”

Unlike some actors/actresses who attempt to distance themselves from roles that they had years ago, Mr. Storch embraced the part that brought him so many fans.  It speaks to Mr. Storch’s talent that he was so versatile that he could stay busy acting on stage, television, feature films and providing voice-overs for 60 years!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Larry Storch’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Gregory Itzin

Gregory Itzin died today at the age of 74.  No cause of death was given.

Gregory Itzin was a character actor perhaps best known for his role as Vice President (and later President) Charles Logan on the television series 24.  Mr. Itzin was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for his performance in this role.  The Charles Logan character (thanks to Mr. Itzin) proved so popular that he was brought back as the now disgraced former President in season 10!  He was honored with another Emmy nomination for Guest Actor in a Drama!

Although Mr. Itzin was best known for his role on 24, it was just one of the many, many parts on his resume.  Gregory Itzin intended to be a stage actor and in addition to television and feature films, he also appeared on stages across the country as a member of the Los Angeles Matrix Theatre Company.  As a stage actor, Mr. Itzin was nominated for a Tony Award and multiple L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards.  Gregory Itzin alternated between stage, television and feature film roles throughout his career.

Some of the television shows that featured Gregory Itzin include: Mork & Mindy, Charlie’s Angels, Lou Grant, Falcon Crest, Dallas, Tales from the Darkside, Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, St. Elsewhere, Murphy Brown, Night Court, Eerie Indiana (regular), Matlock, Quantum Leap, LA Law, ER, Murder One (regular), The Pretender, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Profiler, The West Wing, Firefly, NYPD Blue, Friends, Boston Legal, 24, The Mentalist, Covert Affairs (regular), Mob City (regular) and NICS.

Feature films in which Gregory Itzin appeared include: Airplane, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Airplane II: The Sequel, Teen Wolf, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Lincoln.

Gregory Itzin was a talented actor who could work on stage or screen in a comedy or drama and make the production better.  He was perfect as Vice President/President Charles Logan on 24.  But that character aside, what a career Mr. Itzin had!  He epitomized what a true character actor should be.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

“Double Whoopee” (1929) Starring Laurel & Hardy / Z-View

Double Whoopee (1929)

Director:  Lewis R. Foster

Screenplay by:  H.M. Walker (titles), Leo McCarey (story)

Starring:  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Jean Harlow

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Stanley (Laurel) and Ollie (Hardy) show up for their temp services jobs at a posh hotel when they are mistaken for visiting dignitaries.  Things go downhill from there once they begin their jobs as a doorman and bellman.  Jean Harlow who was just 17 during filming appears in one of her earliest roles.